The Los Angeles Chargers had a bitter end to their 2021 season.
They were less than a minute away from entering the playoffs via a tie with the Las Vegas Raiders.
But their fortunes changed when head coach Brandon Staley called a useless timeout.
Before the stoppage, the Raiders looked content to maintain the deadlock.
But Staley’s decision to insert his best defensive unit for the situation backfired.
build on it. pic.twitter.com/iHeJkHnAOv
— Los Angeles Chargers (@chargers) January 20, 2022
The Raiders later kicked the game-winning field goal and eliminated the Chargers.
Such a decision plagued Staley and the Chargers throughout their campaign.
His preference to heed what analytics dictates delivered its fair share of success and misery.
For a man who seems to know a lot about football, Staley needs to master getting a feel for the game.
Going For It During Questionable Circumstances
On one end, going for it boosts a team’s confidence, especially if they are a few yards away from the end zone.
However, running an offensive play on fourth down always entails risks.
It’s a gamble that Staley is unafraid of, even if the Chargers are still deep in their territory.
The Chargers did convert consecutive fourth-down tries down the stretch to send the game against the Raiders to overtime.
— Guilty As Charged Podcast (@GACPodcast17) January 20, 2022
They had no choice but to keep trying in those instances because their season was on the line.
But going for it on their 18-yard-line early in the game is a head-scratching decision that defies logic.
Yes, there’s always the possibility of a successful conversion.
Unfortunately, it offers little reward because they are still out of field goal range.
Instead, the plan backfired when Austin Ekeler failed to get the first down.
Head Coach Brandon Staley speaks to the media. https://t.co/acHLClrMtd
— Los Angeles Chargers (@chargers) January 12, 2022
The Chargers are lucky that the Raiders did not get a touchdown from that turnover.
Still, Daniel Carlson added three points with a field goal.
That’s the final margin of defeat for the Chargers.
If not for that call, the game might not go overtime, and the Chargers make the playoffs.
Going All In Has A Correct Timing
Poker players do not push their chips in the middle of the table all the time.
There’s a good situation to go all or nothing, and doing it more often can spell bluff for opponents.
Staley isn’t afraid to gamble their chances for easier points because of the opportunity to score more.
He does deliver good results more often than not.
Brandon Staley: "All endings are beginnings."
— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) January 12, 2022
The Chargers led the league with 22 fourth-down conversions during the regular season.
That rate translates to a 65 percent success rate, the fourth-best in the league.
However, only two teams (Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions) had more fourth-down attempts than the Chargers.
Unfortunately, his refusal to discard the analytics on certain situations created more doom.
— FanDuel (@FanDuel) January 14, 2022
It left opponents in a more manageable field position instead of a punt that pinned them on the other end of the field.
Amidst the failures, Staley will remain unapologetic about his approach.
But if he and the Chargers take the next step, knowing when to deal their cards right is the lesson the young mentor must learn.
It’s not that he must become ultra-conservative with his decision next season.
If it weren't for Brandon Staley, Justin wouldn't fully know his capabilities when his back's against the wall, he wouldn't have grown the way he has in 2021. The way Coach Staley WHOLEHEARTEDLY trusts his QB has made Justin's confidence sky rocket & he's a better player for it💙 pic.twitter.com/BH68lCYhIy
— HERBIE'S MOMMA! 😍🏈⚡💙 Don't disrespect my child! (@RiversGirl17_) January 13, 2022
However, there is a right time to bet the house to yield massive gains.
Not all fourth downs are equal, and Staley must use his instincts and not just numbers to come up with the best decisions.